Jurors acquitted violent “anti-fascists” charged with assaulting a Trump supporter during protests in Berkeley, California last year, despite testimony from police and firefighters who witnessed the five-on-one beating.
Witnesses told jurors in Alameda County Superior Court last week that five self-declared “anti-fascist” activists attacked Trump supporter Moshe Daniel Quillinan as firefighters worked to close a large gash on his head from an earlier altercation during the March 4, 2017 “March on Berkeley,” the Berkeleyside reports.
The rally was one of several organized by Trump supporters that prompted a fierce response from so-called anti-fascists, who donned black masks and arrived prepared for violent confrontation. Quillinan was also prepared, with a heavy wooden shield and motorcycle helmet, but was “thrown down to the ground, mobbed and beaten,” earlier in the day – which left him with a large gash on his head, he testified.
Firefighters pulled Quillinan from the crowd and treated the wound as he sat on a sidewalk near Berkeley High School. That’s when witnesses told jurors Quillinan was attacked by five anti-fascist activists – Taylor Fuller, Scott Hedrick, Nathan Perry, Jeff Armstrong and Dustin Sawtelle.
The Berkeleyside reports:
Berkeley Police Sgt. Jesse Grant testified that he was sitting in an unmarked vehicle with Berkeley Fire Capt. David Sprague-Livingston at Milvia and Kittredge when he heard words exchanged between the seated Quillinan and a group of pedestrians. Grant saw Armstrong punch Quillinan in the head and Perry kick Quillinan in the leg, he said. Several others then “closed in” around Quillinan, as Grant saw “arms and legs flying.” Grant, the only police officer at the scene, jumped out of the car and called for back-up, then ordered the group to leave. Firefighters also yelled, to break up the fight, and the group “took off” south on Milvia. The defendants were arrested by other BPD officers a short distance down the street.
Police charged the men with assault and assault causing great bodily injury, both misdemeanors.
Anti-fascist supporters rallied behind the alleged attackers, led by defense attorney Shanta Driver, who also happens to be a national organizer for the violent political activist group By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN. BAMN leader Yvette Felarca, a Berkeley teacher, testified in the trial despite a similar pending felony assault case against her for attacking people at a different rally in Sacramento.
The BAMN legal team sent out email updates last week promoting the “Berkeley Anti-Fascist 5.”
“BAMN said the five men ‘are local heroes who stood up to neo-fascist attacks’ and alleged that ‘they are falsely charged by neo-fascists and local law enforcement to advance Trump’s agenda in the direction of a police state,’” according to NBC Bay Area.
“BAMN described Quillinan as ‘a self-proclaimed fascist sympathizer and one of the main organizers of the repeated alt-right protests in Berkeley in 2017.’”
All of the defendants testified that they came to the protest in peace, to provide medical help and look out for folks amid the inevitable violence. They alleged they were going to their car after a long day of helping, minding their own business, when the wounded Quillinan attack them.
Police records show officers recovered a Billy club from one of the “Berkeley Anti-Fascist 5” and a knife from another.
Ultimately, jurors sided with the anti-fascists over the police and fire fighters and returned not-guilty verdicts for all.
Jurors told the Berkeleyside they were not convinced a crime took place, and suggested there were other explanations for the attack.
Hillary Clinton won Alameda County nearly 4-1 over Donald Trump, capturing 79.3 percent of the vote in 2016, according to Politico.